Christoph Maria Schlingensief (born October 24, 1960 in Oberhausen) is a German film and theatre director, actor and author. Because of his often controversial work he has often been called a "scandal-maker".
Schlingensief considers himself a "provocatively thoughtful" artist. He has created numerous controversial and provocative theatre pieces as well as films, his former mentor being filmmaker and media artist Werner Nekes. One of his main works, the so-called Germany-Trilogy, which deals with three turning points in 20th century German history: the first movie Hundert Jahre Adolf Hitler (Adolf Hitler - A Hundred Years) covers the last hours of Adolf Hitler, the second Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker (The German Chainsaw-Massacre), depicts the German reunification of 1989 and shows a group of East-Germans who cross the border to visit West-Germany and get slaughtered by a psychopathic family with chainsaws, and the third Terror 2000 uses the theme of the 1970s Red Army Faction terror. His films have been compared to Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's film, Hitler, A Film from Germany.
In 2004, at the invitation of the Wagner family, he directed Parsifal at the Wagner-Festspiele in Bayreuth, creating highly original images for the opera. This came as a surprise as Schlingensief has targeted the legacy of the Third Reich in German and Austrian identity.
One of Schlingensief's central tactics is to call politicians bluff in an attempt to reveal the inanities of their "responsible" discourse, a tactic he calls "playing something through to its end". This strategy is most notable in his work Please Love Austria at the time of the FPO and OVP coalition in Austria, a work which attracted international support, a media frenzy and countless debates about art practice.
Schlingensief has also directed a version of Hamlet, subtitled, This is your Family, Nazi-line, which premiered in Switzerland, the so-called neutral territory equated with the Denmark of the opening line in Shakespeare's play where there is something foul afoot. Events around the piece questioned and attacked Switzerland's "neutrality" in the face of growing racism and extreme right wing movements. It also involved former members of Neo Nazi groups, allowing them to play out their own weaknesses in the terms of the characters in the drama, and led to him founding a centre for former members to "de-brief".
Schlingensief's work has covered a variety of media, including installation and the ubiquitous "talk show" and has in many cases led to audience members leaving the theatre space with Schlingensief and his colleagues to take part in events such as "Passion Impossible, Wake Up Call for Germany" 1997 or "Chance 2000, Vote for Yourself" in which he formed his own party where anyone could candidate themselves in the run up to the federal election of 1998 in Germany. With his demands for people to "prove they exist" in an age of total TV coverage and "act, act, act" in the sense of becoming active not "actors", his work could be considered a direct legacy of Bertolt Brecht, as it demands involvement as opposed to passivity and merely looking on as is the case in traditional text-based theatre. In an age of extreme media fatigue, his is a fresh voice albeit and undisputedly containing echoes of the past, often humorous and subversive yet never cynical. His influences include Joseph Beuys and his idea of social sculpture, and artists Allan Kaprow and Dieter Roth.
Roger Boyes for The Times in Berlin: "German audience vents fury at Diana-Nazi parody play". Times Online, September 14, 2006.